Have an Amazon gift card leftover from Christmas laying around? Looking for a fiction anthology to assign to your students for the spring semester? Lately been wondering what the best fiction to come out of the Midwest looks like?
In addition to my story “On a Train from the Place Called Valentine” (which originally appeared in Boulevardmagazine) the anthology features stories from acclaimed authors such as Charles Baxter, Stuart Dybek, Joyce Carol Oates, Laura Van Den Berg, and Christine Sneed. It’s an impressive lineup.
Thanks so much to series editors Jason Lee Brown and Shanie Latham, and guest editor Lee Martin, for putting together such an amazing anthology, and New American Press for seeing it to print. You’ve all done the region proud!
New Stories from the Midwest is an anthology series that presents the best literary writing published in the Midwest during the most recent two-year period. The editors select from a large pool of stories gathered from distinguished journals and magazines like Cincinnati Review, Glimmer Train, Hobart, Mid-American Review, Narrative Magazine, Ploughshares, Tin House, and dozens more. Writers featured in the 2016 volume include such luminaries as Charles Baxter, Peter Ho Davies, and Joyce Carol Oates, as well as new voices and rising stars such as Laura Van Den Berg and Rebecca Makkai. Be sure to watch for New Poetry from the Midwest as well!
Check out this all-star lineup of authors for New Stories from the Midwest 2015, due out this summer from New American Press. I’m so honored to have my story “On a Train from the Place Called Valentine” bring up the caboose for this great anthology. Are you kidding me? Baxter, Oates, Ostlund, Sneed, van den Berg, Weil. Two Dybeks! Congrats to series editors Jason Lee Brown and Shanie Latham, and guest editor Lee Martin, for putting together such a superlative anthology!
Thomas M. Atkinson “Grimace in the Burnt Black Hills”
Charles Baxter “Forbearance”
Catherine Browder “Departures”
Claire Burgess “Upper Middle Class Houses”
Peter Ho Davies “Chance”
Stephanie Dickinson “JadeDragon_77”
Jack Driscoll “All the Time in the World”
Nick Dybek “Three Summers”
Stuart Dybek “Tosca”
Abby Geni “Dharma at the Gate”
Albert Goldbarth “Two Brothers”
Baird Harper “Patient History”
Rebecca Makkai “Dead Turtle”
Monica McFawn “Out of the Mouths of Babes”
John McNally “The Magician”
Emily Mitchell “Three Marriages”
Devin Murphy “Levi’s Recession”
Joyce Carol Oates “A Book of Martyrs”
Lori Ostlund “The Gap Year”
Nicole Louise Reid “A Purposeful Violence”
Christine Sneed “In the Bag”
Anne Valente “The Lost Caves of St. Louis”
Lauren van den Berg “Lessons”
Josh Weil “Long Bright Line”
Theodore Wheeler “On a Train from the Place Called Valentine”
Since it’s been a while since I offered a general state of the blog type post, here’s the latest in the world of the uninitiated.
-A pub date has been set for Bad Faith! My short story collection will drop on July 12, 2016. And while you’re hurriedly marking your calendars, I’ve also set up a pre-release party at Pageturners Lounge for Thursday, June 30, which will the first opportunity to purchase the book, have it signed, and toast with the author.
Between working through final edits on the book, the first blurbs coming in, and setting up events for later this year, it’s been an exciting, sometimes nerve-wracking experience. There will even be a cover before long. It’s happening!
-A few of my short stories will be coming out in the next couple months. “Violate the Leaves” in the spring issue of Boulevard, in March; “The Hyphenates of Jackson County” in Artful Dodge, by the end of February; and “On a Train from the Place Called Valentine” in New Stories form the Midwest.
-You may have noticed a few updates around the site. The last year I’ve slowly been transitioning this space from its blog roots to more of a proper web site befitting a published author with multiple books to his name. Or something. The process should be finished shortly, with a static front page and all that. I’ll still be blogging here every once in a while, maybe even a little more frequently. The whole “travel” part of the blog kind of took a backseat the last couple years, as I wasn’t traveling much, saving up money for potential book tours and bigger trips. Posting the same photos of me at Royals games over and over didn’t quite have the same panache as the posts from my summer touring Europe.
-One last thing, I want to include a note about the success we’ve seen with the literary pub quiz I’ve been putting on at Pageturners with buddies Ryan Borchers and Drew Justice. The turnout has been great, and it seems like the enthusiasm grows each month. The next edition is in a week, on February 3 with guest host Wendy Townley of the 1877 Society. We’re getting some great guest stars lined up for the spring/summer season, and I can’t wait to share the lineup. But I will wait, and hope to have that posted here soon. The series has been a lot of fun and I’m psyched to keep this going through the rest of the year. If you’re around Omaha the first Wednesday of the month, stop on in and talk some literature with a copacetic group of bookish folks.
The last days of 2015 are dwindling, but there’s still a little time to sneak in some good news before the calendar turns. So…I’m happy to share that guest editor Lee Martin has picked my story “On a Train from the Place Called Valentine” to appear in the New Stories from the Midwest 2015 anthology!
The story was originally published in Boulevardand is now part of the title/anchor novella of my short fiction collection, Bad Faith, that will be out this summer from Queen’s Ferry Press. Here’s a post I wrote about the story before, and this one too. In short, “On a Train from the Place Called Valentine” is a psychological thriller that follows heroine Amy Gutschow after she jumps a freight train outside Aurora, Nebr and through her confrontation with a pathetic but dangerous ladies man, Aaron Kleinhardt, after she hops off the train in Valentine, Nebr.
Stories of mine made honorable mention in the two previous editions of New Stories from the Midwest. (“The Approximate End of the World” in 2012 and “The Current State of the Universe” in 2013.) I’m super excited to have one of mine make it in this time!
New Stories from the Midwest 2015 should be out in three months or so, and I’ll have more links, photos, and ordering information closer to the release.
Thanks so much to the Series Editors, Jason Lee Brown and Shanie Latham, guest editor Lee Martin, editor of Boulevard Richard Burgin, and New American Press for publishing the anthology!
Same as last year, I’m a little slow in posting this, but nonetheless I’m happy to note that my short story “The Current State of the Universe” was named as one of “Thirty Other Distinguished Stories” in the latest edition of New Stories from the Midwest.
This is the second year in a row that my work achieved notice there. I’m pretty proud of that, as this year’s edition features fiction by Mary Morris, Rachel Swearingen, Roxane Gay, Steve De Jarnatt, Ian Stansel, and a bunch of other great writers.
Be sure to check out New Stories from the Midwest 2013, from New American Press. Jason Lee Brown and Shanie Latham do a great job putting this together, and it’s something Midwestern writers in particular should be proud of and support.
Summer is here in just about every way imaginable, so it’s time to recap what’s gone down the past few months.
First, some news about Tom Dennison’s house at 7510 Military Ave was passed on to me by a reliable source who wishes to remain anonymous. (Previous posts about the Dennison house can be found here and here.) There was some confusion about which side of Military the house was actually located, and my source let me know that the address of the house would have changed at some point after Dennison died. So while it was originally 7510 Military, it would have been on the 7300 block of Graceland Drive for most of the time it was standing, putting it south of Military, on the property of Skyline Retirement Community rather than on Marian’s side like I thought. That the address changed clears everything up.
Some more info from the source:
From the 1960s until it was torn down in 2006, the house was used as a guest house by Skyline Manor, and later as administrative offices. There was an effort to remodel the home before the decision to raze it was finalized, but the cost of a new roof, structural repairs, asbestos removal, etc, etc, was deemed too great. Skyline also offered the house free to anyone who wanted to relocate it to a new property, but, again, the cost of moving the house vastly exceeded its monetary value. The spot where the house stood is now a parking lot.
Other news from what was a pretty busy season:
-I was awarded a fellowship and residency by Akademie Schloss Solitude in Stuttgart, Germany. (Get the whole story here and here.) Summer of 2014 can’t come soon enough. We’ve been busy planning out the trip and addressing all sorts of logistical issues. I thought Maddie would be a little more nervous, but she’s still very excited about the whole thing, just so long as she gets to watch movies on the airplane and have torte for dessert every meal. Not such unreasonable demands.
-Not a lot of travel lately, although we did spend a few days in Los Angeles in April, which was really nice. On the docket for this summer: the Ozarks, Kansas City, and a family trip to Chicago to give the girls a little more flight experience before crossing over to Germany next summer. Tentative plans call for a little jaunt to New York this fall to retrace and expand last year’s bratwurst tour of Manhattan.
Dispatch from The Uninitiated
Tom hadn’t exactly been feeling fit, but he didn’t feel any worse than he had the month before, and maybe he was a little better than the month before that. His daughter had him doing all sorts of things to feel better. Morning ablutions. Evening exercises. A Bulgarian hulk came to stretch his legs with a rubber strap and burn his back with rocks. He had a steambath installed in the back lawn. Tom submitted because she begged him to. Ada had him consuming all sorts of herbs and minerals too, he didn’t even ask what the names of her magic were. Selzter water mixed with salts from the Dead Sea, she claimed anyway. Now why he wanted to drink Dead Sea saltwater he didn’t know. Wasn’t dead the very thing he was trying to avoid? All it did was keep him in the bathroom all morning, and he suspected more than once that maybe this was Ada’s way of getting him to spend less time at work. It surely kept him occupied.
Woes of the True Policeman by Roberto Bolaño. Supposedly this is Bolaño’s final unfinished novel, what he was working on when he died, I guess, and it’s writing that ranks up with his best. A lot of it reads like stuff that was cut out of 2666, which is fine by me. The focus on Óscar and Rosa Amalfitano yields quite a few wonderful stories.
In a German Pension by Katherine Mansfield. A series of sketches about the guests of a German health resort. Mansfield is vastly underappreciated, and this is yet more great work from her. (The Kindle version of this is now free, fyi.)
Laughter in the Dark by Vladimir Nabokov. I’d never heard of this novel before, but picked it up on a recommendation while at Book Soup in Los Angeles, and I’m glad I did. A comedy of manners that romps through Berlin and Italy.
Death in Venice by Thomas Mann. I’ve been meaning to read this for years and finally got to it now that I’m trying to get a feel for the German canon before I’m over there next summer. A masterpiece. Maddie kept asking me to read it aloud for her–a little uncomfortable given the subject matter–because it’s so beautiful. I’m pretty sure she didn’t understand many of the words…hoping anyway.
Freedomby Jonathan Franzen. After all the controversy and hoopla surrounding this book when it came out a few years ago, I decided to give myself some space before reading it. I’m big fan of Franzen, but not so much this book.
The Slippage by Ben Greenman. A solid offering, but not quite on the level of his short fiction.
I’m a little slow on the uptake here, but I should note that New Stories from the Midwest 2012 (aka Best of the Midwest) has been released from Indiana University Press and is ready for your consumption. While none of my work is included in this fine anthology, “The Approximate End of the World” (published by Boulevard of all places) is included as one of “Thirty Other Distinguished Stories.” Never let it be said that I wasn’t distinguished in defeat.
The anthology does include work from such luminaries as Dan Chaon, Charles Baxter, Anthony Doerr, Lee Martin, Christine Sneed, and Mark Wisniewski, among other great writers, and was guest edited by John McNally. According to the jacket copy, “The stories, written by Midwestern writers or focusing on the Midwest, demonstrate that the quality of fiction from and about the heart of the country rivals that of any other region.” Damn right!
Be sure to check it out if you’re interested. Jason Lee Brown and Shanie Latham do a great job putting this together, and it’s surely something Midwestern writers in particular should support.
My contributor copy of the Spring 2012 issue of Boulevardarrived in the mail today!
Not only does the issue contain my short story “On a Train from the Place Called Valentine,” but there’s also fiction by Stephen Dixon, non-fiction by John Barth and Josip Novakovich, and poetry by Albert Goldbarth, Andrew Hudgins, and Floyd Skloot, among many others. (Did I mention John Barth?!) It’s a pretty stellar lineup. One I feel incredibly blessed to be a part of.
Boulevard puts out such a consistently great product. It’s hard to believe this is my third story published by them. “Welcome Home” appeared in the Spring 2008 issue–before it was anthologized in Best New American Voices 2009 and received special mention in the back of Pushcart Prize XXXIV. “The Approximate End of the World” was in the Spring 2010 edition, and will be noted as a “Distinguished” story in a forthcoming edition of New Stories from the Midwest.
Here’s an excerpt of “On a Train from the Place Called Valentine”:
It isn’t until later, when the freezing wind cuts through her, that Amy Gutschow actually considers what she’s doing. This is late December after all and she’s riding north on the bed of a railcar after sunset. She nestles into her downy black coat, shoves her hands deep into its pockets, and waits for the train to pass through a town where she can jump into a grassy ditch and roll away from the rails. She’ll have to call her father, wherever she lands, and beg him to pick her up, the way she did in college. A tall man with a dopey mustache, her father would wear gray sweatshirts and blue jeans, if he came for her on a weekend, or a tweed jacket and corduroy pants if he had to take time off from work. He never asked why she needed him, but just came for her, humming almost happily as they returned home. “My baby girl,” he’d say, as if it were part of an old song. “What has happened to you now?”
I’ve decided to fly in the face of Leap Day and post my review of the past month a day early. (Try to have a safe holiday out there today, folks. We don’t need a replay of four years ago, with all the accidents and alcohol poisonings. Use the extra day wisely!)
February was a month of good news. There was my appointment as Web Editor at Prairie Schooner. I’m still not sure my family believes that I actually get paid to work for a literary journal now. Actually, I’m not entirely convinced myself yet, direct deposit aside. The job has been a lot of fun, although a bit frustrating at times. It’s been a long time since I started a new job. There’s a lot to learn. Hopefully I’m picking it up right. … Next came word that two of my published short stories will be mentioned among the “Thirty Other Distinguished Stories” in the New Stories from the Midwest anthology series. “The Approximate End of the World” (Boulevard, Spring 2010) will be noted in the back of the 2011 edition. “The Current State of the Universe” (The Cincinnati Review, Summer 2011) will be noted in the back of the 2012 edition. This is a new series, but one that looks very promising. I’m excited to break through in some small way with them. Hopefully it’s only the start of bigger things. … That same weekend I learned that my review of Yannick Murphy’s novel The Call was accepted for publication in the Pleiades Book Review. This is my second review Pleiades has taken, and it will run in their Summer 2012 issue.
March brings a lot of promise. There’s AWP in Chicago. Spring is here, apparently. (Our daffodils have breached!) ZZ Packer is the writer in residence at UNL and will make a couple public appearances in Lincoln. Also, lil’ Clara Lynne is due to join us.
Dispatch from The Uninitiated
“Sometimes I scuffled with Neal Davies and his brothers. I ran track with the two younger Davies boys. They weren’t so brazen about what they said, not like Neal had been outside the store. Mostly it was Neal who mumbled something, standing off to the side to watch us run. Neal Davies was short and podgy. He had blonde hair that laid very flat and smooth on his round skull. His brothers looked at me and laughed when Neal made remarks. I’d tackle one of them into the grass, the Davies brother who was slowest getting out of the way. A punch or two would be thrown, but that was all. Other kids would break it up. Whatever happened was chalked up to bad blood. Since I didn’t know what they said, there was nothing more I could say about it. There was lots of bad blood in Jackson County in those years, the war years. It was wrong of Davies to tease me about the ways my folks died, I’m certain. I’m not certain if I would have teased him about such a thing if the roles had been reversed. I might have. I had to give him that in my calculations. He still had his parents, if nothing else. I did not. Sometimes we believe these things are so for a reason.”
Personal Rejection Notes, Requests for More, and Other Nice Versions of No Thanks
The Painted Bird by Jerzy Kosinski. A remarkable book about a Gypsy boy’s travels and travails in Eastern Europe during the Holocaust, based upon Kosinski’s own life story. A remarkably brutal book.
The Third Reich by Roberto Bolaño. About the ways people confront (or confronted, it was written and it is set in 1980s Spain) the lingering presence or (non)presence of Nazism in European culture. It’s not quite in the stratosphere like 2666and The Savage Detectives, but is still very good.
Jonah Man by Christopher Narozny. A very solid first novel about murder, drugs, and the intrigue of 1920s vaudeville performers. It comes out in May. I will be reviewing it.
In Our Time by Ernest Hemingway. A rereading of this classic after hearing George Saunders and Robert Stone talk about it at the Key West Literary Seminar.